Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Paul Rudd achieves the impossible

In the last ten years there have been so many movies with child-men, losers, and slackers as main characters that one shudders at the thought of another one called OUR IDIOT BROTHER. Think of these actors and their roles--Adam Sandler, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen. They are prime examples of the adolescent male who seems to never grow up. He exists to party, smoke a joint, play video games, and be as gross as possible.

Now we have OUR IDIOT BROTHER, which on the surface sounds like more of the same, but, be assured, this is a fresh take on the slacker syndrome and almost an antidote to those lame examples from the past few years. The main reason is Paul Rudd, who has added a few pounds for the part, grown a lot of hair and beard, and shed his usual smarter than thou persona. Rudd made his first positive impression in the delightful comedy CLUELESS (1995) playing a good-hearted liberal who genuinely cares for the main character, a teen based on Jane Austen's meddling EMMA. Since then he has been mostly a second banana to folks like Steve Carrell (THE FORTY YEAR OLD VIRGIN) and Will Ferrell (ANCHORMAN).

In OUR IDIOT BROTHER Rudd portrays Ned, a sweet guy who believes in trust and in helping people. He's just been released from prison for possession and sales of pot to a policeman (who entrapped him), his hippie girl friend has dumped him and taken his beloved dog, and he is forced to go home and stay with his mom and his sisters. At each stop Ned is painfully honest. He says what he thinks and does not seem to have a filter, which leads to some embarrassing domestic dilemmas with the sisters but also to the betterment of their lives. The movie is greatly aided by the sharp performances of Emily Mortimer as a passive mother who doesn't see that her controlling husband is having an affair, Elizabeth Banks as career-driven harridan, and Zooey Deschannel (a delight in 500 DAYS OF SUMMER), as a lesbian who strays and gets pregnant. They all love Ned, but he drives them all crazy with his innocent honesty.

But the film's driving force is Paul Rudd who gives Ned innocence as well as likeability. It's almost impossible not to like Ned because it's almost impossible not to like Paul Rudd.

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